Cricket: Why Caddick the swinger is no ordinary Joe

View from Down Under
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The Independent Online
Every now and again cricket treats us to a passage of play that remains with us forever. I saw the great Jeff Thomson, head-hunter, rib- breaker and sandshoe crusher, putting fear into the minds of the great West Indians, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Viv Richards in Barbados one evening in 1978.

Once, Thommo thought he had Greenidge caught off the glove, but Gordon rubbed his shoulder to get the benefit of the umpire's doubt. "Gutsy," said Thommo afterwards, "because he must have been dying to rub his broken hand."

Andy Caddick's demolition job on the Aussies was less brash, less explosive, more your guided missiles than your cluster-bombs. But the result - a quality batting order reduced to rubble - was just as impressive. His pinpoint seam and swerve reminded me of another swing bowler, Joe Scuderi, an Australian cricketing name never usually mentioned when the Ashes are talked about.

But, in 1997, Caddick has seen to it that Joe is entitled to a mention. By way of background Joe was a cane cutter's son from the far north of Queensland and therefore might have felt more at home shining a machete than a new cricket ball. But he chose the red cherry and swung it so well, and so late he was inducted into the Australian Cricket Academy.

Shortly afterwards he just missed selection in Allan Border's 1989 Ashes team, pipped by another swing bowler, Greg Campbell, but he recovered his composure to create a remarkable bowling record. And, the method he applied was pure Caddick.

Joe was bowling at the Adelaide Oval in a Sheffield Shield match and, under a low cloud cover on a green-tinged pitch, he took six wickets for six runs in 26 balls. The remarkable fact was that all his dismissals were completed within the width of the pitch - his victims were either leg before, bowled or caught by the wicketkeeper.

Caddick performed similarly; the only Australian batsman dismissed beyond the near pitch area was slogger Shane Warne, caught out at deep third man. Steve Waugh and Ian Healy caught behind, Jason Gillespie leg before, Mike Kasprowicz caught at second slip. You can't bowl much straighter or much fuller than that. Of course, Joe and Andy both got lucky. There will have been any number of other days when they have bowled as straight and as well but not got the nick, or a nick has negated the leg before.

Any Australians watching Taylor's bowlers fumble their way through a less than pressure-packed response were entitled to wonder, "Where's our 'Joe' in this team?" After all, bowlers at Test level are expected to be as familiar with line and length as they are the contents of their back pocket.

How do we explain a limp bowling response like that, from a team rated world champions? Trying too hard, underwhelmed by the batting collapse, failure of the besieged captain to gee them up, or a neglected point - failure of the coach to get them up to speed tactically on a tour that is now 10 matches old?

Australia's problems might go deeper than any of that. Down Under, at every level of the game, there is growing term "pace" to describe any new-ball bowler, and the former chairman of the Australian selection panel, Lawrie Sawle, the mastermind behind the last four successful Ashes defences by Australia, hates it.

At one time, there was a clear definition of the role a new-ball bowler played - he was either swing, seam or fast; that is, into-the-wind or down-wind. The modern trend in Australia ignores such subtleties; now it is to dig the ball in, to get bounce, to get a buzz out of the latest catch-phrase - "hit the keeper's gloves hard!"

It's like the serve in modern tennis ... pow! ... say fella, what did that register on the speed gun? ... wow! In cricket "reverse swing" has suddenly grabbed the headlines from orthodox swing. The very pacey Waqar Younis is not a swing bowler, but he is a reverse swing bowler.

Sawle is concerned that in Australia there is a new generation of coaches convinced that orthodox swing bowlers are too slow, and that there is no place in the modern game for the "slow" fast bowlers such as Bob Massie and Terry Alderman, who gave the ball air so it would swing. Swing bowling is like red wine - let it breathe.

And, there is a knock-on effect to this lack of swing bowling development - generally Australian batsmen get so little practice against that type of bowling that when they run into a half-decent exponent of the craft in Caddick, they can take a while to adjust; witness Edgbaston Day One.

It is far too early to say if Mark Taylor's Australians have a death wish, but be assured they have a wish-list, on the top of which is a demand that England's bowlers revert to the form of 1989 or 1993 - no Edgbaston encore, please.

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